Hanging your own freshly ground venison sausages is satisfying and rewarding. Sausage is a wonderful addition to any meal and is a great way to cure fresh meat for future use. The whole process is a project you can enjoy step by step, until your sausage supply is replenished for the year.
The reason behind hanging your sausage up to dry before or during smoking is to allow the casing to dry and the cure to have time to destroy any harmful bacteria that might cause salmonella. Larger cuts of meat require more time as the surface area of sliced meat takes longer to dry out. Another important step of fermentation also happens at this time, depending on the actual recipe being used.
The time involved in hanging sausage to cool smoke depends on a couple of variables; how smoky of a flavor you want and the color of the finished product. A cool smoke of 10 to 12 hours should produce a nice smoked flavor and color. The cool smoking process at about 90 degrees will not cook the meat, so either you will have to cook the sausage immediately or freeze it for later use.
Sausage making used to be a task that every homeowner knew how to do. Kitchens had their share of dried, cured and smoked sausages hanging from the rafters. With the introduction of the corner grocery store, and the local meat shop, people could buy their store-made links without having to take the time to grind the meat, season, stuff, cure, dry and smoke it. Today the process is making a resurgence with the Internet providing the necessary information for safe handling as well as a listing of the sources of supplies.
The Southeastern states like Virginia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Pennsylvania (Lancaster) and even Maryland are known for their smoked meats. Much of it is pork, but you will find the occasional venison and beef. Smoke houses are common when you drive through Virginia and the smells wafting through the air will send you searching for the nearest meat market for some of the briney meat. Of course, in Europe, with the high popularity of sausage, you will find a butcher hanging his sausages in almost every community.
Most sausages, whether precooked or not still need to be brought up to the proper internal temperature of 165 degrees for safe consumption. The only exception to this are the fully cured, cooked and dried sausages like pepperoni and salami which do not even need to be stored under refrigeration.